Music in Service of the Word (Ang Kuwento ng Sidhimig)

[Note: This is a guest post by Robert Verdejo, worship leader and songwriter.]

Ako po si Robert Verdejo from Infinite Gospel Resound Church in Pasig, a worship leader and a songwriter of Sidhimig – isang worship team na ang misyon ay lumikha ng mga bagong papuring awit. Share ko lang kung paanong nagbago ang aming pananaw at ambisyon nang malaman namin ang kahalagahan ng gospel-centeredness sa buhay at sa ministry.

There’s indeed a known lack of resources for new Tagalog worship songs. Many worship teams resort to English songs since these well-funded, promoted, supported, and aired by Christian radio stations – tulad ng mga songs ng Hillsong, Planetshakers, Bethel Music, etc. Kaya ‘yun din ang madalas maririnig na kinakanta sa mga churches every Sunday.

However, ang church namin ay community-based tulad din naman ng majority ng mga Christian churches sa Philippines. That is why we create and encourage the use of Tagalog worship songs in our own church and this has been the main advocacy of our group since 2009. Gusto rin namang i-encourage ang ibang churches to do the same. Kahit nung simula pa, wala pa ang name namin na Sidhimig, malinaw sa amin kung ano ang misyon namin.

Tagalog ang wikang kaloob sa ating ng Dios, mainam itong gamitin para manamnam at maipa-abot natin nang malinaw ang mensahe natin. Singing is fruitful if we understand what we sing, as it builds up the church by its message. Like what the apostle Paul asked in 1 Corinthians 14:6-12, how can anyone know what’s being said if it’s foreign to us? We must sing with the spirit (yes, with passion!), but we must also sing with understanding (v. 15).

Obviously mas mainam kung Tagalog kasi yun ang heart language natin. But still, that’s not enough. Merong mas importanteng element ang isang worship song na aminado kaming lately lang namin naunawaan at nabigyan ng lubos na pagpapahalaga.

I used to listen to Joel Osteen to brighten up my day. Pero hindi na ngayon, due to a change of heart na alam kong Dios lamang ang makagagawa. Early 2018, we’re in the last leg of recording our album Puso Ko’y Sumasamba. During that time, I was listening to John Piper‘s messages on worship, then si John MacArthur naman. I also began browsing some resources from The Gospel Coalition.

So this is what we realized during that time. We know the value and power of songs. So we need to be biblical in how we approach it. That’s why we need to study the Word and placed a high priority on the message of the gospel as “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3).

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (NKJV). According to this verse, yung “word of Christ” (the gospel) kailangan nating ituro sa isa’t isa. And one way we do that is by singing to one another. May teaching function ang pagkanta, and we need to be reminded of the gospel through songs kasi makakalimutin tayo.

Word of Christ pala ang dapat nating inaawit sa church to really admonish one another, so hindi enough na Tagalog lang. Dapat naroon si Kristo at ang kanyang mga salita. To hear the gospel over and over again is the need of every Christian. Hindi lang ‘to para sa mga unbelievers.

So, the first thing to check sa pagsulat ng kanta ay ito: “Where is Christ in that song?” I am personally thankful to Rm Rodriguez of 1WorshipPH, my brother in Christ, my co-servant at ngayon ay pastor na namin sa aming church. Yung mga previous songs niya ay covers ng mga popular Tagalog worship songs. Pero recently, he launched his first worship song, “Sambahin ang Diyos”, na talaga namang theologically rich and gospel-saturated. Nakakasama namin s’ya sa aming Bible study sa Sidhimig at s’ya rin ang nag-introduce sa amin ng mga resources na pwede naming gamitin sa Bible study from Treasuring Christ PH.

We would print the materials and also download the audio messages. Talagang nakatulong ‘to sa aming buhay at ministry. Even to my wife, na nagpapaalala pa sa akin ng mga points ni Pastor Derick, tulad nung sa short series na Marriage Under Attack. Heto ang first reaction namin: “Gospel-centered na, Tagalog pa!” So, we share yung mga audio files sa group, at hinihimay namin sa weekly meetings namin, together with the printed materials. This is a much-needed inspiration for us.

The very first message I heard online from Pastor Derick was “The Gospel: Deeper” from the series “The Gospel: Deeper + Higher + Wider.” Pati ‘yang buong series pinakinggan namin, and recently yung messages from the conference Gospel Awakening. Hindi naman ganun ka-dynamic na preacher si Pastor Derick tulad ng ibang nakasanayan kong pakinggan, but he really treasures the gospel – the excellencies and the redeeming work of Christ. Kaya ayun, ganun na rin ang Sidhimig ngayon, we treasure the gospel above everything.

We are like that depraved Samaritan woman sa John 4. Notorious ang reputation, at parang wala namang maniniwala sa kanya. Pero nang magkaroon siya ng personal encounter with Jesus, the source of Living Waters, ibinahagi niya ito sa kanyang fellow Samaritans. Ganun kasidhi ang ambisyon namin. Hindi lang magandang musika ang alay namin, Magandang Balita ang dala-dala namin. Hindi lang sa language na Tagalog, but in words na nakasentro kay Cristo.

Since that time, Sidhimig had this gospel ambition – to sing no other message but the gospel, and to find our motivation from the gospel, na kailangan nating marinig araw-araw.

Ayaw ko na sanang i-release pa ang Puso Ko’y Sumasamba Album. Susuko na talaga kami lalo at nang tanungin ko sarili ko, “Where is Christ in this song?” Like many worships songs today, we worship God as if we can do it without Christ, but we realized na kalooban na rin ng Panginoon na ma-release yung album to serve as a memorial stone for us, that at some point, we had our own “gospel awakening.” It was not instantaneous, it was rather painstakingly slow.

This happened not only to me, but for the whole Sidhimig band and our church. We witnessed how everyone has become serious about our message in both preaching and singing. Kahit mga youth namin, meron nang accountability sa struggles nila sa mga kasalanan. Pati yung language namin nagbago. Our worship team became careful about our choice of songs. Minsan nga habang buong puso kaming umaawit at tumutugtog ng isang song, biglang nagtanong ang aming bassist, “May gospel ba sa kanta na to?” Kasi ang ganda, sayang kung wala, kasi non-negotiable to, bro!” Though nagtawanan kami after, but it has become a serious matter for us. Hindi na kami after sa maganda lang yung song. Mas masarap umawit ngayon kung God-glorifying, gospel-focused at edifying ang mga songs!

Isa sa mga speakers ng isang conference ang narinig kong nagsabi, “If we are not preaching the gospel, what are we preaching?” Strucked talaga ako. So, ganun din ang tanong ko sa mga fellow worship leaders ko, “If we are not singing gospel-centered songs, what are we singing?” Kay Cristo pa ba tayo nakafocus o sa iba na?

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